On Being Quiet (and Being Swept Away vs Standing Grounded)

Like quite a few others in our joyful band of travel companions, I classify myself as an introvert. For me, it is difficult to express a thought that is half-baked, even more so when it must be put into writing. Self-expression (not idle chatter, but real talk) equates to dipping into a vast, ever overwhelming maelstrom of unfinished thoughts and half-baked opinions, carefully shaping them into a format I can support (at that point in time, heavily dependent on countless parameters I may be self-moderating on), and hesitantly trying to add them to whatever conversation I was trying to contribute to. In many cases, either the conversation has already moved on, or my stated opinion is so wobbly, I’ve changed my mind by the time the second half of my sentence is expressed.

You may be able to imagine why I find it easier to remain quiet.

I’ve known this aspect of my character for a long time. I’m acquainted to it by blood, not by choice, and I’ve been trying to make the most of it. Over the years, I built a persona that could serve as a middleman. I learned I could mask my own difficulties by making people talk about themselves, and found a true wealth in opening my heart and mind to adding ever more information to the maelstrom. As it turns out: Projecting a confident persona (even if it’s made out of cardboard), while inviting others to share has been all I’ve needed to coast through life thus far.

I have not felt this handicapped by it in many years.

Experiencing extreme emotion and feeling unable to keep up appears to be a common theme for many people starting the Remote Year itinerary. Experience-wise, this week has been like drinking from a firehose, or standing in the rapids of a powerful mountain stream. All throughout it, I’ve observed people going through the process of defining who they want to be in relation to everybody else in the group. Quite a few of them are at a profound crossroads in their lives, having made hard, sometimes permanent decisions to get here. Many are trying to figure out how to be who they want to be, what this new path they’re on will turn them into. It’s often described as the honeymoon phase in this yearlong venture, but it’s just as much a formative one. Many are letting their next steps be defined by the river, ready to let it take them wherever it will lead.

And here I am, holding up my soaked cardboard persona in that powerful spray, fooling absolutely nobody. There are many interesting elements to having TJ with me here, but one of them is that he doesn’t allow me to fly off and reinvent myself in this wild current of emotion. He grounds me through our shared experiences and forces me to face up to the torrent, letting it take every construct I built around myself, leaving only that which can stand the force of the experience. It’s been a sobering realization. One, I find, that is hard to put into words.

There is beauty in that, though.

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